Dodds built a financial empire at Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- In the half hour that DeLoss Dodds and Texas president Bill Powers spent talking about the Longhorns athletic director’s achievements and impending departure, one substantial chunk of his legacy was hardly mentioned.

They talked about the championships, the student-athletes, the staffers, the ambitions and plenty about the future during today’s press conference.

What they did not talk much about was all the money.

Sure, it’s understandable. Dodds and Powers didn’t need to spend any time bragging, not when this day was meant to celebrate all that Dodds has meant to the Texas athletic department.

You can’t say, though, that a price can’t be put on his legacy. The man built a financial empire at Texas, one that will support athletics at Texas long after he’s gone.

Dodds has been on the job 32 years. When he took over in the fall of 1981, he said Texas’ athletics budget was $4 million. Today, he says, it’s closer to $170 million.

The 76-year-old will help advise Texas during the nationwide search for his successor. It’s a safe bet that he’ll be looking for someone with the kind of business savvy he’s brought to the position when eyeing the candidates to inherit his throne.

“There are a lot of people that can do the job,” Dodds said. “President Powers will find the right person to do the job. I'll be on that person's team.”

Dodds spurred more than $400 million in facility upgrades and has made Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium the nation’s sixth-largest at a capacity of more than 100,000. He took over at a time when each UT program fundraised itself and created The Longhorn Foundation, which has 13,000 donors and has raised more than $400 million for athletic programs.

The brand he’s helped build keeps growing. Dodds struck the $300 million deal to create the Longhorn Network. For eight straight years, Texas has been the nation’s No. 1 college merchandising brand according to the Collegiate Licensing Company.

That’s just scratching the surface of what he’s built in three decades. Dodds was honored to learn that his friend Donnie Duncan was in attendance on Tuesday. The ex-Oklahoma athletic director regaled reporters with stories of all the work and meetings he and Dodds put in to create the Big 12 Conference.

“There is not another DeLoss Dodds out there who will fit Texas the way DeLoss does, but he’s been here 32 years,” Duncan said. “You can’t expect that. But someone will bring certain strengths. Someone will hit the right chord and someone will come here and do a great job.”

Few will be able to match his wit when it comes to negotiations, Duncan said. Dodds would sit quietly and fill legal pads with notes at times, but when it came time for business he was an astute fighter for the University of Texas. He wasn’t afraid to speak unpleasant truths and get exactly what he desired.

“The amazing thing to me is I would sit there and listen to him negotiate some of these contracts,” said David McWilliams, Texas’ former football coach. “And I would think, ‘Oh, he’s smarter than they are. They’re going to get their britches took off by him.’ He always had his information.”

But this wasn’t about selfish victories. Dodds and those who worked with him say his end goal in all matters was putting money back into the Longhorns programs and benefitting his student-athletes.

“When he speaks, everybody listens,” former Texas women’s basketball coach and women’s AD Jody Conradt said. “I think that’s definitely true of DeLoss. It’s his calmness, his ability to think through issues and, when he speaks, you know you’re going to get wise counsel. He brought that same quality to intercollegiate athletics.”

There’s no replacing a power broker like Dodds, but the fact he’ll have a strong say in his successor suggests the next Texas athletic director will be someone who commands his respect.

And that’s a powerful thing. Powers lauded the fact that Dodds has built trust with so many commissioners, athletic directors and coaches. He dedicated more than 30 years to building that cachet.

Good luck finding an athletic director who can match it. That’s the task Texas now faces, and its leaders are confident that even though there’s no replacing Dodds, the next AD is stepping into a remarkably fortunate situation.

“What you do is build on the foundation that they've made. You extend things. You don't replace them,” Powers said. “The good news for the person coming in is they are inheriting a wonderful edifice that DeLoss has built over the last three decades. That actually will be a blessing for the new person coming in.

“I have no doubt that this will be a very highly sought-after job, and that we will get a great men's athletic director.”